The Louvre (1st Arrondissement) is the largest and most visited of the museums in the world; more than eight million people come to see this museum’s glorified treasures each year. Located in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, the Louvre originally began as a 13th century fortress, home to kings and emperors who soon enough despaired of their abode’s poor light and drafty rooms. Not surprisingly, it has been remodeled and renovated several times over the last couple of centuries; its latest renovation took place in 1989 and yielded architect I.M. Pei’s metal and glass pyramid that we all recognize and love. This pyramid enables visitors to enjoy the priceless collections and treasures of the Louvre with the aid of the sunlight shining through and into the underground areas.
Most tourists head straight for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, by far the most popular of the museum’s rich collection. This masterpiece was painted in the early 1500s by Leonardo who was commissioned by the Florentine millionaire, Francesco del Giocondo, to paint a portrait of his wife. The mystery of his wife’s smug smile still continues to haunt and confound the multitude. Some theorize that Giocondo commissioned the painting as a memorial to his wife’s death. It has also been posited that his wife’s smile was added by the witty Leonardo who was poking fun at his patron’s name, which in Latin means “humor”.
The Louvre, however, is much more than the Mona Lisa. Among the celebrated collections include Leonardo’s Virgin and St. Anne, Raphael’s La Belle Jardinière, Whistler’s Mother, Giorgione’s Concert Champêtre, Veronese’s Marriage at Cana, Jan van Eyck’s Madonna and Chancellor Rolin, Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at Her Bath, Delacroix’s Liberty Guiding the People, and Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker.
Besides the paintings, which range from 13th century to 19th century, the museum also features legendary collections of antiquities from the Romans, Greeks, Asians, and Egyptians. Various ancient paintings, sculptures, antiques, and manuscripts are on display with priceless treasures like the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the French crown jewel 186-carat Regent diamond, Michelangelo’s sculpture of the two Slaves, and Alexandros of Antioch’s statue of Venus de Milo – if only we knew where her two lost arms are!
Unfortunately, getting into the Louvre can be a difficult feat. There are two long lines: one outside the Pyramide entrance and another downstairs at the ticket booth. If you enter through the Carrousel du Louvre, you can avoid the second lineup. Even so, patience will definitely be required. The museum is usually open from 9:00AM to 6:00PM on weekdays, with hours on Wednesdays and Fridays extended until 9:00PM. The museum, however, is closed on Tuesdays.
The Louvre hosts a full calendar of events, including lectures, concerts, films, and special exhibits. These events are usually not included in the basic ticket and it is recommended that you grab a brochure with information on scheduled events.
At the Cour Napoléon, there is a restaurant called Café Marly that is conveniently located but not the best in terms of quality. If you wait to reach the Café Richilieu, which is on the first floor of the Richelieu wing of the museum, the food is much better. At Richilieu, you can also dine while enjoying a terrace view over the Pyramide.
DK Publishing. Europe (Eyewitness Travel Guides), Revised Edition. New York: DK Travel, 2004. ISBN: 0789497301.
Fisher, Robert I. C., and Fodor’s. Fodor’s France. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2007. ISBN: 1400016878.
“Louvre.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre>
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